A Polish court ruled earlier this week that four so-called “LGBT-free zones” must be abolished. The areas were established in 2019, according to Reuters, when local authorities throughout the predominantly Catholic country declared themselves free of “LGBT ideology,” and banned the promotion of homosexuality and other minority sexual identities, especially in schools.
Previously a lower court had ruled against nine such local resolutions, while the European Commission has said that they may violate European Union non-discrimination laws.
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Last September, the Commission wrote to five Polish regional councils warning that declaring themselves LGBT-free zones could impact E.U. funding.
“The Commission would like to stress that declaring LGBTIQ-free/unwelcome territories, workplace or services constitutes an action that is against the values set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union,” the letter read. An E.U. source reportedly confirmed that municipalities with such discriminatory policies would not receive funding for infrastructure, environmental initiatives, and other initiatives.
In 2019, Gazeta Polska, a far-right nationalist weekly magazine in Poland that supports the Law and Justice Party, which is anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant, distributed “LGBT-free zone” stickers to their readers. Georgette Mosbacher, U.S. Ambassador to Poland at the time, denounced the stickers.
“I am disappointed and concerned that some groups use stickers to promote hatred and intolerance,” she wrote. “We respect freedom of speech, but we must stand together on the side of values such as diversity and tolerance.”
Later that year, the E.U. Parliament formally condemned Poland for trying to create “LGBT-free” zones, with lawmakers comparing the policies to “Jew-free” zones that existed during World War II. But by early 2020, it was estimated that roughly one-third of the country had established “LGBT-free zones.”
Later that year, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in her State of the Union address that “LGBT-free zones” are “humanity-free zones,” though she did not call out Poland directly. President Biden re-tweeted an article about von der Leyen’s speech, writing that “LGBTQ+ rights are human rights” and denouncing “LGBT-free zones.”
A message posted on social media by Poland’s Campaign Against Homophobia stated that the court’s decision this week, “is a great victory for democracy, human rights and respect for people.”